The Confederacy and the Monuments — What We Need to Do As Genealogists

This post is one that I have been musing on for over two weeks, and I was not even sure that it was going to be written with all the seemingly conflicting points of view surrounding the issue….and because I did not know if I was the right person to do so.

But, I finally convinced myself that these words needed to be written because it is something that we as genealogists HAVE to address. Just like the issues of enslaved persons, transgender individuals, and same-sex marriage need to be spoken about in our community.

Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville
Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville

The events of that tragic weekend were pushed into place by “alt-right” organizers to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate icon Robert E. Lee located in Charlottesville, Virginia. A great mass of neo-nazis and white nationalists descended on the town on Friday night with tiki torches in order to intimidate those who didn’t agree with their stance and show their support of keeping the statue where they thought it belonged. The very next day, Heather Heyer was mowed down by a domestic terrorist hell-bent on keeping things “the way they were.”

Heather Heyer
Heather Heyer

As a genealogist and a lover of history, this incident, and the protests leading up to and following it grabbed my attention hard. In my quest to find individuals scattered across history, grave markers, historical signs and monuments have often been crucial to my work, without them, many of the people I have found would be lost to the sands of time.

To most people, this has come as some sort of conundrum or riddle. But it shouldn’t, the actions we should take are crystal clear. These monuments that celebrate treason, tyranny, and genocide, should be taken down, just like we did with statues of King George during the US revolution.

Pulling Down the Statue of George III, by John C. McRae
Pulling Down the Statue of George III, by John C. McRae

This does not for one minute mean we are going to forget or erase history. In fact, we can remember this history in a much more appropriate way than celebrating individuals who fought for slavery. Have you ever been to a museum? Take for instance the United States Holocaust Museum, The National Museum of African American History & Culture or The National Museum of American History.

Each one of these museums holds and showcases items from our countries history that no longer has an acceptable place in our growing progressive society, but are in places that we can understand the history through context and education.

Indiana Jones

To clarify, we aren’t moving interred remains and we aren’t going to forget their actions (and atrocities).

What we are going to do is move those conversations and places of remembrance into a more productive and proper place for all of our citizens, a place where people can still view the monuments and placards, but in a place where it is clear, we do not honor their actions.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory




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